Strategies In Training Autistic Employees

Researchers estimate around 50,000 young people with autism turns 18 every year. Is your organization read to train these new employees?

What is Autistic Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological disorder that includes a wide range (spectrum) of skills, symptoms and levels of support. Although no two people are alike, characteristics may include ongoing challenges with social skills that include difficulty and interacting with others. For those on the higher end of the spectrum, characteristics may include:

  • ·         A normal to high intelligence and good verbal skills
  • ·         Trouble understanding what someone else is thinking or feeling
  • ·         Difficulty understanding non-verbal cues
  • ·         May suffer from anxiety or depression
  • ·         Strong long-term memory
  • ·         May have executive functioning difficulties 
  • ·         Being highly creative
  • ·         A high sense of justice and fairness

It is important to note that autistic employees vary in the workplace. Younger employees may have received a diagnose very early their childhood while those in their 30’s to 50’s were more than likely diagnosed as adults. Many in fact may not realize they are autistic due to lack of information during their formative years. This rings true especially for women who did not fit the typical stereotype of autism.

Challenges Training Autistic Employees

The use of idioms, sarcasm, irony, metaphors and figure of speech may be difficult since most are literal thinkers.

Due to sensory sensitivities, harsh lighting and certain smells may be intolerable.

May feel anxiety working with groups during an activity, which includes role-playing and case studies.

Discomfort with noise

Coping with the unpredictable

Strategies In Training Autistic Employees
  • ·         Structured breaks- give notice in advance
  • ·         Give visual instructions. Verbal instructions are difficult to remember
  • ·         Do not assume that the employee is not listening or paying attention
  • ·         When explaining, use explicit and concrete language
Accommodations

A diagnosis of autism also qualifies under the American Disability Act (ADA).  While some may not want to disclose their diagnosis, It’s always a good idea to make sure each person is comfortable in the training. The following are some suggestions:

  • ·         Provide advance notice of topics to be discussed if possible
  • ·         Allow employees to use items to hold such as hand-help squeeze balls 
  • ·         Allow use of a noise-cancellation headset
Tips to Remember

Some autistic employees have a history of being bullied, which for many have carried over into the workplace.  Set rules in the beginning of the training that all participants should be respected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When an Employee Has a Seizure

According to the National Epilepsy Foundation, 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder caused by abnormal nerve cell activity in the brain. Epilepsy involves recurring seizures.

More than 30% of people with epilepsy will experience generalized seizures.  It would not be unusual for a person to experience having a seizure in the workplace.When providing first aid for seizures, try to keep calm and make sure the person having the seizure is comfortable and safe from harm. A seizure can last from a second or several minutes.

Call 911 if:
  • The person has never had a seizure before.
  • the person has difficulty breathing or waking after the seizure.
  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • The person has a seizure back-to back.
  • The person is injured during the seizure.
  • The person has an additional condition like diabetes, or heart disease.
Steps
  • Ease the person to the floor.
  • Turn the person gently onto the side (this will help the person breathe).
  • Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp
  • Put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his or her head.
  • Loosen ties or anything around the neck including button on a shirt.
  • Time the seizure.
Familiarize Yourself With The Warning Signs 

Each person is different. Typically warning signs of a seizure may include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Jerking of limbs
  • Slight twitching
  • A loss of awareness
Do Not:
  • Do not hold the person down or try to stop his or her movements.
  • Do not put anything in the person’s mouth. This can injure teeth or the jaw. A person having a seizure cannot swallow his or her tongue.
  • Do not try to give mouth-to-mouth breaths (CPR). People usually start breathing again on their own after a seizure.
  • Do not offer the person water or food until he or she is fully alert.

After the seizure:

After the seizure ends, the person will probably be groggy and tired. He or she also may have a headache and be confused or embarrassed. Try to help the person find a place to rest. If necessary, offer to call a taxi, a friend, or a relative to help the person get home safely.

Don’t try to stop the person from wandering unless he or she is in danger.

Don’t shake the person or shout.

Stay with the person until he or she is completely alert.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Strategies In Training Employees with ADHD

Have you ever conducted a training with employees where you experienced a participant interrupting you while you were talking, blurting out answers before you complete your sentence or appearing not to pay attention? Chances are you may have an employee diagnosed with ADHD.

Most people think of children when they hear the word ADHD, but the fact is that ADHD can continue into adulthood and as a life-long challenge. Currently, 4.4% of the U.s adult population is diagnosed with ADHD. Of these adults, 38% are women and 62% are men.

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders which is often characterized by a pattern of inattention/or hyperactivity/impulsivity that can impact workplace learning through making careless mistakes,the inability to complete a task, staying organized and excessive talking throughout the training.

Typically, a person with ADHD, the difficulties lies in the part of the brain that allows people to perform higher level task known as the executive function. 90% of people with ADHD also have an executive function disorder. This is the part of the brain that engages in goal-direction and self-regulations.

Two Types of ADHD:

Types of ADHD

Type 1: Inattention Without Hyperactivity

  • Trouble paying attention
  • Trouble following direction
  • Trouble following through with task
  • Easily distracted
  • Seems disorganized or careless
  • Slow to process information

Type 2: Hyperactivity Without Inattention

  • Trouble paying attention
  • Restlessness
  • Impulsive speech and action
  • Excessive talking
  • Difficulty waiting turns
  • May have a quick temper
  • Overactive
Challenges Training Employees with ADHD

Workplace learning in most cases for the participant means learning new information, participating in training activities, sitting for a period of time and given direction.

  • A participant with ADHD may have difficulty in sustaining attention and remaining focused during lectures.
  • May need questions repeated
  • May have difficulty in grasping main ideas or details during the lecture.
  • Become easily distracted by both internal (day dreaming) or external (noises) stimuli.
  • May blurt out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • May have difficulty in listening in environments with noise distractions.
  • Difficulty in following through with instructions
  • May talk excessively
  • Difficulty in taking turn in a conversation.

The upside is that often when a person with ADHD is interested in a topic, they may hyperfocus, meaning they will fully participant in group discussion, and show great enthusiasm for the subject matter.

Strategies that help in training employees with ADHD include:

Telling participants what they will learn

Vary instructions- auditory alone will not be effective, participants with ADHD will need visual aids as well.

Allow for frequent breaks.

Summarize key points of the training as a way to reinforce the lesson

Create a leadership role such as assisting in setting up any training equipment and giving out training material.

When possible, alternate between physical and mental activities.

Stick to the expectation of the time. It will be difficult for the participant to sustain focus once a time of dismissal is given.

Conduct a stretching activity for the group when possible, I would sometimes include a game of “would you rather.” This works great but should tie into the theme of the training.

Tips to remember:

A diagnosis of ADHD also qualifies under the American Disabilities Act regarding workplace accommodations.